Gibbons Stakes Out Lonely Gun Position in GOP Primary


As he travels around the state in his campaign for governor, Bill Gibbons experiences a lot of little Sister Souljah moments. Like Bill Clinton calling out the rapper in that famous speech in 1992, Gibbons is repudiating an extremist element within his own party. He's telling the GOP's Second Amendment freaks they've gone too far with their guns-in-bars law.

"He's been outspoken about it, that it just didn't make any sense," says campaign aide Joe Hall.

Gibbons isn't afraid to bring up the new law and cites cases from his own experience as Shelby County DA to prove his point, "including a sheriff's deputy in Shelby County who got in trouble for it and just got 20 years in stage prison for it," campaign manager Josh Thomas says. "He went in [to a bar] without the intention of drinking and it got the better of him, and he shot and killed actually the wrong guy. He killed the DJ."

Here's another case Gibbons mentions, according to Thomas: "It sounds like the setup to a joke, but this Dallas Cowboys fan goes to a local bar and the Raider Nation happens to be there that day. They watch the game together, and something goes wrong. He had no intention to drink and he got into an argument with someone else, and he pulled out his gun and shot him, and he's now serving a lifetime sentence in jail for it."

The Gibbons' spin is this: His position may be controversial, but it shows he's a stand-up guy and unafraid to tackle tough issues. It's definitely a way for a Tennessee Republican to set himself apart. Zach Wamp and Ron Ramsey would jump off a cliff if that's what the NRA wanted and, incredibly, Bill Haslam isn't absolutely certain what he thinks about guns in bars. But will it help Gibbons' campaign? His aides insist most Tennessee Republicans aren't as extreme on the gun issue as the NRA claims.

"We're definitely a pro-Second Amendment party," Thomas says, "but I do think the majority of our party has some concerns" about the law.

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